A Syrian dissident is on hunger strike in Istanbul after Canada did not answer his application for a reunion with his family.
Ammar al-Sheikh Haidar, a former detainee and political dissident of the Bashar Assad regime was separated from his family years ago when he told them to go to Jordan, fearing for their safety after he joined the opposition. He traveled to Istanbul after surviving detention, death threats and kidnapping and wanted to travel to Canada with his family who he has not seen in 10 years.
Haidar started a hunger strike 10 days ago in front of the Canadian consulate in Istanbul but decided to take his demonstration to more "visible" places as the consulate is located in a large business complex. He tried to stage a protest outside a visa center linked to the consulate but security guards told him to leave.
The brother of Ali Haidar, who was Syria's former minister of state for national reconciliation affairs, Ammar hails from Hama and was a political dissident before the war erupted. He was arrested in 2010 by regime forces. He spent a year in prison and decided to send his wife and daughter to Jordan for their safety while he stayed behind. "I was hoping there would be a regime change, so I stayed in Syria until 2014," he told Anadolu Agency.
Unknown gunmen held him for one month and he started receiving death threats before he decided to travel to Lebanon. He could not stay long there too, feeling "pressure" on Syrian refugees and left for Turkey in 2015. He wanted to take his family from Jordan to Turkey but Turkish laws only allow refugees who cross through the land border and his family's attempt to illegally enter Turkey failed repeatedly. Haidar applied for asylum in Canada in 2017 and he received first approval and the Canadian Embassy in Ankara approved a health check required for the application in August 2018.
Since then, there has been no word from Canadian authorities. His wife's application in Jordan to the Canadian Embassy also went unanswered. Haidar said his wife will have another appointment next week but it wouldn't "mean a lot."
"It has been more than one year my daughter had her health report and nine months for me," he said, adding that he lost hope in Canadian authorities for answering his calls for asylum. "I don't protest anyone. I just want to give the world a message. I am a displaced person. The international community forces refugees to take the worst options because of their policies against refugees," he said, referring to the dangerous journeys he himself took a few times to cross into Europe from Turkey.